Cooking Dinner – The Most Polluted Thing You Do Every Day

(article by Emily Main)

If you have a gas stove, you’re cooking up a lot more than just dinner every time you switch it on. Though prized for their efficiency and cooking qualities, gas stoves and ovens pollute your kitchen’s air with nasties like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, aldehydes and other gases linked to nerve damage and respiratory irritation. The levels are generally low, but if you have poor kitchen ventilation, they can build up in your home over time and cause long-term health problems.


The solution? According to researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, start cooking on your back burners and turn on your exhaust fan.

The point of their study, which was published in a 2012 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, was to analyze the efficacy of standard kitchen ventilation hoods, which sit above your stove and, theoretically, catch air filled with grease, nasty gases, and other particulate matter from cooking. The government’s Energy Star program certifies a lot of these appliances for their energy efficiency, but there isn’t a single standard that dictates how well they have to work or how effective they are at removing pollutants from your indoor air.

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The study authors tested seven of these hoods, ranging in price from $40 to $650, and found that none of the hoods performed as well as they should. The models that proved most effective at removing pollution weren’t very energy efficient or they were so loud, most cooks would be tempted to turn them off; the most effective hood was rated at the same volume as a standard vacuum cleaner. If the hoods were set on low, they’d be quieter, but also less effective at removing pollution.


But rather than put up with noise or live with pollution, the authors uncovered a simpler solution: Just cook on the back burners. Their tests showed that when the back burners were used, even the most inefficient hoods removed 60 percent of pollutants when foods were cooked on the back burners—the best-performing (but loudest) fans removed 90 percent—compared with just 25 to 30 percent when cooking on the front burners.

Run your exhaust fan when you use your oven, as well. Fans removed anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of pollutants from gas ovens.


In addition to sticking with the back burners, it’s a good idea to subject your exhaust fan to regular cleaning. Once a month, soak the filters for an hour in vinegar to remove grease and wipe down the fan blades inside the fan to get grease off of those, as well.

One last clean-air kitchen tip: Match your cooking oil to your heat level. A study in the journal Occuptional and Environmental Medicine found that heating oils not designed for higher heats can release lung- and heart-damaging compounds.

(article by Emily Main)